Position: 05°53'N, 80°47'W
Distance to land: 50 nautical miles
Leaving the Marquesas Islands on November 22nd, we averaged 100 miles of
distance per day. A week before Christmas, this dropped to 80 miles per
day when we lost our forestay and use of genoa sail. Now, as we make out
the faint shape of the Panama coastline, we are happy to make just 1
mile an hour, 24 miles a day. Progress is all relative really.
After travelling over 5,000 nautical miles (3,800 as the crow flies)
over the past seven weeks, it seems that the Pacific Ocean isn't quite
ready to let us go just yet. The Gulf of Panama is known for its light
winds so it's no surprise that we cannot sail for the final approach to
land. Normally this isn't a problem as we can turn on the engine and
motor our way instead.
We were doing just that on Saturday morning when the trusty Perkins
4-108 gave a few coughs and died. The fuel gauge showed plenty left in
the tank so the Skipper got out his tools, rolled up his sleeves and
looked for the problem. Cables – check, connections – check, filters –
check, water – check. Everything seemed to be in order so he opened the
tank to see if there was a fuel or air lock. The good news was that
there was no blockage or air lock. The bad news: there was no fuel left.
So much for the fuel gauge.
So when we can't sail and we can't motor, we drift with the current
which, thankfully, is bringing us towards land. We've been in touch with
the Panamanian Coastguard to let them know about our situation and they
are putting together a plan to meet us closer to land with support and
supplies. A side effect of this has been a rapid improvement in our
Spanish learning over the past two days. The Coastguard started off with
Spanish, then tried English and eventually sent their response in three
languages – Spanish, English and Irish!!! Thank goodness for satellite
phones and translate.com.
Apart from the reduced speed, all else is good on board. We have of
food, water and gas; the sun is shining in a clear, blue sky; the flat,
calm sea is putting minimal strain on Ashling. Yes, our spirits have
taken a kicking and we are digging deep to find the last ounce of
patience that we didn't think we had. But we can see land – we can even
smell it – we just need to wait a few more days to feel it.
One thing is for sure, there will never be another landfall more
appreciated than this one.